It’s difficult to enforce rules for kids because the more rules I choose to enforce the more work I make for myself. This is true with a six-year-old or sixteen-year-old.
I convince myself to be the enforcer because not having rules is something I do for myself, not my kids. Not making Z make his bed means I don’t have to think about it. Ever. Not making him practice means I can just focus on my own work. Telling myself he’s too old for me to have to do this is really easy. Then I don’t have to figure out how to teach him to do it himself.
And then he has to make decisions all day long about what to do. That causes decision fatigue. And, if he’s not making decisions each day about what to do with themselves they’re on autopilot, and that’s not good either. Rules are guides for making good decisions. Kids who have no rules either seek other people to make rules for them, or they start making up their own desperate rules.
I tell myself this every day because I grew up with no rules. We lived in an upscale community and my parents were gone almost all the time from when I was in first grade.
My brother and I constantly compensated for massive neglect so we could appear cared for and normal. Having no rules was scary.
Many other people saw us as spoiled because we had no rules. For example it was before credit cards but we had a charge account at every store. We could buy anything but we never knew what we needed until we saw what other kids had that we were missing, so we shopped all the time.
We made up rules for ourselves so we could be like other kids, like, “I have to go home for dinner now.” And we took over jobs we were too young for so we could have the feeling of being normal, like opening and sorting mail and cleaning the house.
I didn’t brush my teeth regularly until I was in high school because it was so hard to just keep track of all the rules no one was enforcing, let alone follow them.
When you think a kid is spoiled, you are actually seeing a parent who can’t handle the conflict necessary to give a child boundaries. Kids love boundaries. Boundaries are safe spaces for exploration. Even teenagers love boundaries, because it means someone is paying attention.
I have to check myself all the time to make sure I’m not using homeschooling as an excuse for not giving my kids boundaries.I think this why I love Kyra Schmidt’s transcriptions series.
To my eye, Schmidt adds a boundary that makes an infinite or foreboding space feel safer. If kids aren’t pushing up against those boundaries, something’s wrong. Either the boundaries aren’t in the right spot, or the kid is too scared to explore. This tension is the core of parental love and child rearing. So it’s apt that Schmidt makes boundaries beautiful.